I spent some of my vacation days last week. It had been a year since I took significant time off from work.
Having a week off from my usual routine was generally pretty relaxing, but it also allowed (read: forced) me to entertain myself. I’m so frequently involved in interesting work-related projects and issues that thoughts naturally migrate to the latest technical or HR challenge; when not thinking of such things, I tend to get somewhat bored. I have to fall back on some skills that have admittedly blossomed some rust in disuse.
A great up-side to this is that I have found the time to reflect on 2011, or truly the past comme un tout, and consider what I’d like to do for myself and my family in the future. At first, the results of these thoughts were abundant with generalities: do good works; radiate kindness; be a better wife/daughter/sister/human animal. Yuck. It’s not that these aren’t worthy thoughts or hopes, but too much akin to indistinct software requirements from a business partner to lead anywhere useful: with specificity I can thrive, while dreamy phrases are not useful to me.
Further poking and prodding at the grey matter yielded something more appropriate: monthly projects designed to achieve a particular objective. I already have a year-long quest for quality garments, to dress up the public me. Why not monthly projects designed to get back to the root of myself, and (ideally) enjoy the windy road along the way?
Maybe not quite so simplistic, though. If I look at my past, I’m admittedly not satisfied. I have been petty, over-sensitive, hyper-critical, foolishly impulsive, and occasionally cowardly. I have wasted money, squandered time, and ignored troublesome warning signs. I’ve driven recklessly, been rude in public, and let go of unfinished business. In a nutshell, my life has pretty well encapsulated the Human Experience on the frailties side of the equation – albeit probably no more, nor less, than most people. Nevertheless, getting back to the root of such a thing isn’t very appealing; I want more, and I want better.
For a variety of reasons stemming from experiences the past few days, the first objective is already clear: observe without judgment. It doesn’t mean I advocate someone else’s behavior, and neither does it mean I make excuses for it. It means that the behavior isn’t mine, and doesn’t have to affect me. I own my behavior, and mine only.
There are obvious exceptions. At work, observing and reaching a conclusion is important; in a sense, this is a judgment of someone else’s behavior that often affects me in a clear, direct manner. But even in the context of a work environment, there’s a fine differentiation between judging the action and its consequences, and damning the individual. It is far too easy to get sucked into associating the two.
So this is my task for January. Wish me luck.